Monday, May 17, 2021

Horse-drawn planters and an ancestor improvises


Once again, I’m going to share another of my husband’s family antiques. This item on the surface doesn’t look like an antique. But his great-great-grandfather made it and put it to practical use. Note the photo. What do you think it is? 


A rock. Yep. My kids joke about it. Everything Charley keeps has a story, even this rock.

Do you recall seeing the scenes as the open credits rolled on Little House on the Prairie? Pa is plowing his field with a horse-drawn, single blade plow. We see Ma in other scenes following behind, dropping seeds in the plowed rows, and perhaps one of the girls covered them over with dirt. A pretty tedious job.

Our ancestors were resourceful people. Farmers were constantly looking for ways to make their work go faster and easier. Even before tractors, other horse-drawn farming tools were invented. One of those was the planter. Designed to plant rows the width of a horse’s backside. (about 42 inches.) That allowed for horse-drawn tillers to work between the rows of mature crops, eliminating weeds. 


Henry Blair, an African-American, invented the first corn planter. He was the second African-American to receive a patent. (October 14, 1834.)

Here are a few later versions of planters.



An earlier version then Henry Blair's, invented by Jon Trommel.

The pictures you see here are not the same as the one my husband’s great-great-grandfather used. Even though many time saving farm implements were available, not all farmers could afford them.

I suspect Charley’s ancestor may have improvised. He hitched his horse to the planter. He sat on the seat behind the horse and dropped the seeds into the furrow. Here is where he used the rock. He threaded a rope through the hole and tied it to the back of the planter. The weight of the rock dragging behind broke up the clods as it pushed the soil over the seeds. Pretty clever. There may have been more rocks with holes, but Charley’s great-aunt only had the one. She’s the one who shared how her grandfather planted.

The limestone rock might have been from a nearby riverbed or left over from building a stone wall or home. Our ancestors tried not to waste anything. Modifying the rock served his purpose well. 


Following in that tradition, I found a new purpose for his forefather’s rock. I used it as a base underneath my lighthouse garden decoration. I wanted to capture the setting of a lighthouse on a hill guiding ships to safety. Perhaps not as practical as a farm implement, but I love it. 

Do you have any old-fashion farm tools? Do you display them or put them to use?


Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published writer. She has been featured in many periodicals over the last thirty years. Her historical romance Secrets & Charades won the Editor Choice, Maxwell Award and Serious Writer Medal. Her contemporary romance, New Duet released in 2018 placed second in the 2019 Serious Writer Awards and a finalist in the 2019 Selah Awards. Cindy is a member of ACFW, Mentor for Word Weavers. founding member of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers and Christian Writer’s Guild alumni. She loves to encourage new writers on their journey. Cindy and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois. Visit her website:


Taming the west—one heart at a time.

Healing Heart
Lonnie Holt’s external scars remind him of his failures, his internal scars torment him. Genny Collins seeks safety at the ranch once owned by Lonnie’s uncle. When Lonnie and his brother arrive, sparks fly and distrust abounds. While Lonnie and Genny fight the love growing between them, his past haunts him, and her past pays them a visit. Prequel to upcoming release, Rescuing Her Heart.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interesting post!!! I don't think my husband has any really old-fashioned farm tools. We've had several moves and the last two were particularly downsized in nature. But he's a very inventive guy and this sounds like something he or one of his relatives would have done. My hubby is always coming up with some little invented gadget that helps him. Sigh! His little workshop is getting full again so the next move will involve more downsizing.....but maybe it'll be when it's our kids problem!!!